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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Since the 1970s, social scientists increasingly have cast human emotions in the arenas of culturally or linguistically constructed expression. A wide spectrum of theoretical terminology has been employed, including “constructionism” and “constructivist.” This essay reviews constructionist theories that bear on the study of religion and emotion. It analyzes constructionist theories as both determinist and relativist. It focuses on the recent historical ethnographic work of an important anthropologist of emotion, William M. Reddy. It also examines how religious emotions get constructed and what forms serve to give them expression. Generally, religious ritual is a form that can function in such a way so that the emotional lows of loss and grief are made less low. Conversely, ritual can heighten the feelings of joy and happiness at times of celebration. The construction of ritual form reflects specific religious traditions, yet cultures also share more broadly emotional forms for handling death, birth, marriage, and personal formation.

Keywords: Reddy, constructionism, determinism, relativism, religious ritual, loss, celebration

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